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FAA, DOT coordinated to hide cost of 18 Buttigieg flights on government planes: report

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Biden administration officials in the Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Transportation deliberated for months on how to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request related to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s use of government aircraft and obscure the cost to taxpayers, according to a report. 

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The FAA’s ostensibly independent FOIA office consulted with Buttigieg’s spokesman and the FAA Flight Program Operations office as it processed a request for information from Fox News regarding the transportation secretary’s 18 trips on government jets, according to emails obtained by the outlet. 

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In one email, David Wil Riggins, the vice president of the FAA Flight Program Operations office, suggests altering how costs for the flights are defined, in an apparent attempt to avoid sharing the information with Fox News. 

“One thing I did discuss with Randa: where we provide the ‘…cost the FAA charged for the flight…’, to use a header for that column that is something like ‘OMB Circ A-126 Cost,’” Riggins wrote in a Jan. 20 email to FAA officials. 

Pete Buttigieg
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has taken at least 18 flights on government owned planes
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Riggins was responding to an email thread from December 2022, where another senior FAA official said the agency would “hold on action” on the FOIA request until “preliminary discussion” could be had. 

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Riggins, who heads the office responsible for maintaining the FAA’s fleet of airplanes, also contacted Transportation Department spokesperson Benjamin Halle, a Biden presidential campaign alum, and FAA Assistant Administrator for Communications Matthew Lehner, an appointee of the president, to set up a phone call discussing the FOIA request. 

“Wil [Riggins], is it possible to send over the spreadsheet when you get a sec? I know it (sic) not final, I just want to check it against our record to make sure what we have is all accurate,” Halle wrote in a Jan. 26 email, sent shortly after the call. Riggins then apparently shared the FAA’s log of Buttigieg’s flights on government jets.

On Jan. 30, FAA’s FOIA manager notified other officials that the responsive records were compiled, however, Riggins delayed signing off on the FOIA request for nearly a month despite repeated prodding by the FOIA office. 

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The FAA shared the information on Buttigieg’s flights with Fox News – omitting the costs – on Feb. 27, minutes before the Washington Post reported that the Transportation Department inspector general had opened a probe into the secretary’s flights. 

The FAA refused to release information on the cost to taxpayers that resulted from the flights

The FAA’s FOIA office refused to say why the cost of Buttigieg’s flights were not included in the responsive records given to Fox News. 

An analysis of government flights taken by former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price conducted by the Washington Post estimates that Buttigieg may have cost taxpayers $5,000 per hour to fly on the jets. 

Buttigieg, 41, has taken trips on planes managed by the FAA to Nevada, Florida, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Ohio and New Hampshire for departmental duties, many of which are key election swing states.

He also traveled to Montreal in September 2022 to attend the International Civil Aviation Organization conference. 

Five of his senior advisers have also taken flights without him.

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New York Post Original Article

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